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As Julian Assange fights U.S. extradition at the Old Bailey in London, over one hundred eminent political figures, including 13 past and present heads of state, numerous ministers, members of parliament and diplomats, have today denounced the illegality of the proceedings and appealed for Assange’s immediate release.
The politicians from 27 different countries and from across the political spectrum have joined 189 independent international lawyers, judges, legal academics and lawyers’ associations by endorsing their open letter to the UK Government warning that the U.S. extradition request and extradition proceedings violate national and international law, breach fair trial rights and other human rights, and threaten press freedom and democracy.
Politicians endorsing the call to free Julian Assange include Jeremy Corbyn, former Prime Minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, several members of the European Parliament, former presidents of Brazil, Lula da Silva and Dilma Roussef, and Australian parliamentarians from the cross-party parliamentary group to free Assange.
Kenneth MacAskill, Member of UK Parliament, former Justice Secretary of Scotland, and lawyer, commented, “This is a political crucifixion not legal process and is about seeking to bury truth and those exposing it.”
The unprecedented appeal to the UK government by the international political community follows concerns raised by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, The American Civil Liberties Union, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other rights organisations regarding the chilling effect Assange’s prosecution will have on press freedom. Amnesty International’s petition calling for the U.S. Government to drop its charges against Assange has garnered over 400,000 signatures.
Today marks the beginning of the third week of the extradition hearings, which have drawn wide criticism for failing to uphold the principle of open justice by preventing independent observers including from Amnesty International, PEN Norway and others from monitoring the trial.
The Trump administration is seeking Mr Assange’s extradition from the UK to prosecute him under the Espionage Act for his work as a journalist and publisher. The 2010 publications, on which the U.S. government’s attempted prosecution is based, brought to light a range of public interest information, including evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last week during the hearing the court heard that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks undertook careful redaction processes to protect informants,